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SH park pool receives support

The Harrison County Council heard a presentation Monday night from Melissa Archibald, who spearheaded a petition throughout the southern part of the county to keep open the pool at South Harrison Park, located between Elizabeth and Laconia.
Archibald, who has served as a coach of the South Harrison Seahawks swim team, said she and others read in this newspaper that the park board had plans to shut down and remove the pool.
The Harrison County Parks Dept. and its board have made it clear their goal is to make South Harrison Park the focal point of the future of Harrison County Parks. A steering committee was created to initiate a master plan for the park, with the help of design firm DLZ.
The initial plan was reviewed in October by the committee but has not been approved, nor has money been requested to implement the plan.
The new plan does not, however, include a pool.
Park leaders said repair and maintenance costs to the pool have grown too expensive for the low number of residents using the pool. With year-round school, summer is now only about six weeks long.
Archibald said, so far, they’ve collected 778 signatures of those supporting the pool, all in the southern part of the county with the petition placed at Ollie’s and Wilson’s General Store, both in Elizabeth, Laconia General Store and the S.R. 211 gas station.
The pool is home to the Seahawks, which had 78 swimmers last year.
‘A third of the team is under 8 years old,’ she said. ‘We do take those young children and teach them lifesaving techniques in water.’
Archibald also spoke with the Harrison County Board of Commissioners the week before. Both government bodies accepted the petition and took no action on the matter.
Councilman Jim Heitkemper told Archibald to keep her ‘ear to the wall and find out what they’re up to,’ speaking of the parks board.
‘We appreciate your effort and understand your support for the pool,’ Council Chair Gary Davis said.
In other business, the council tabled a request of $500,000 for the Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Dept. to build a new station in downtown Elizabeth.
Davis said he wanted to do more research because the R.W. Bassett & Associates report, which assessed the needs of the nine fire departments in the county, had a different view of what was needed for Elizabeth.
The first priority of the department should be a new fire house on the Posey-Taylor Township line, according to Bassett. The structure would be something similar to what Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept. built a couple of years ago. The new substation would improve the ISO rating, which, in turn, would lower homeowners’ insurance for residents in the area. The balance of the funding ($500,000) could be used to improve the existing downtown station while totally abandoning the facility ‘on the hill,’ which is in bad shape and is not owned by the department.
‘I’ve been wrestling with this issue ever since I got the new Bassett report,’ Davis said.
David Bratcher, treasurer of the EVFD, said, with the Bassett recommendation, they wouldn’t have enough room to house all of their 12 trucks. He said they agree that a substation on the Posey-Taylor Township line is needed but not before they address the main firehouse.
Davis said he didn’t want to appropriate $500,000 until he sees a proposal that addresses the Bassett report recommendations.
Councilman Kyle Nix, who said he’s visited the Elizabeth fire house, also wanted more time to research the issue.
Councilman Richard Gerdon said Tony Combs, president of the Harrison County Fire Chiefs Association, needs to attend a council meeting to explain the method used to determine which fire departments receive funding.
A gentleman’s agreement was created some time ago between the county and the fire chiefs association with the understanding that approximately $500,000 of riverboat gaming funds would be spent each year on fire service. It’s up to the fire chiefs association to determine who has the greatest need and should receive funding for that particular year.
‘We’re not in a position to make a decision on priorities,’ Davis said of the county council. ‘So, we gave that charge to the fire chiefs. They should be in a better position than we are.’
Before the gentleman’s agreement, it was basically a first-come, first-serve operation for riverboat money.
Blue River Township Trustee Michael Beyerle said it would be a good idea to have Combs explain the fire chiefs’ process. He said 2015 was supposed to be the year Ramsey Volunteer Fire Dept. built a substation in Blue River Township. But, he said, Blue River Township will probably save enough funding to build the fire house before any outside funding help is directed its way.
‘That’s probably how it’s going to be,’ he said. ‘I don’t think that’s fair.’
Gerdon reiterated that they need to find out if the fire chiefs’ process is getting done correctly.
Beyerle said the site for the firehouse ‘ near the Totten Ford and Hancock Chapel roads intersection ‘ is already picked out and equipment is purchased to fill it.
Nix asked how they could justify spending $500,000 on one department in one year, especially after looking at the number of people served by other departments, such as Harrison Township and Ramsey.
The council unanimously agreed to table the request.
At the council’s next meeting, Monday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon, it will vote on additional appropriations of $1,560 and $4,100 for a couple of plan commission members to attend a yearly training conference in Seattle.
Davis said taxpayers tend to look unfavorably on sending folks to training in Seattle or New Orleans. He asked if the training can be received closer to Harrison County.
Plan commission administrator Terry Smith said the only other training would be the state of Indiana training session, which wouldn’t be as extensive.
Nix asked if the request was all or nothing, or would the board members agree to pay for some meals.
The request included $100 per day per member for meals. Smith said he couldn’t see sending volunteer board members across the country and not paying for their meals.
Commissioner Jim Klinstiver, who has attended a plan commission training session in New Orleans (he’s a long-time member of the Harrison County Advisory Plan Commission) said they’re limited on what they can purchase to eat, because, once you’re in the conference center, you’re stuck there. As an example, he said at one training session a cookie cost $7.
‘If you’ve ever been in their meetings when everything’s hot, you’d be ashamed asking them to pay a nickel (of their own money),’ Councilman Heitkemper said. ‘They take their beatings, without any compensation.’